Earlier this month, while you were busy wiping food stains off your shirt or combing baby poop out of your hair, the internet exploded with an article about a girl in Hunan, China who underwent major plastic surgery that rendered her unrecognisable. She was fifteen.
Just yesterday, my student informed me that her mom wants her to wear contact lenses because she will be prettier that way. She agrees because she wants to be pretty. The girl is 8. WTH.
My husband the psychologist says that’s the way of evolution, but meanwhile my heart turns inside of my chest. Surely something is amiss when kids so young are already insecure about their God-given looks.
The Root of Our Children’s Insecurities
We ourselves hesitate to post a “selfie” without #instafaking it first. Unless you’re a baby or a kitten, furriness and fat rolls are OUT (babies and kittens are #nofilter perfection). Our girls and boys see the same photoshopped Instagram photos and unlike us, don’t realise it’s not real. They see models in magazines as the norm and the new (unattainable) standard for them and it’s fuelling disappointment and insecurity.
I look at my toddler who flaunts his chunky belly (it’s a proper beer belly) and marvel at his oblivious confidence. The boy has cellulite, for goodness sake, full-on chubby thigh cellulite, and he still struts around like he’s the handsomest thing to happen to humanity (he is, my darling). So what happens to this bravado along the way to growing up?
Our Confidence Is Their Confidence
They may act dense when you tell them for the millionth time to tidy their toys, but our kids do pick up on the subtle ways we look at ourselves in the mirror. When we call ourselves fat. When we put ourselves down. When we inspect our boob saggage (well worth it, my son).
In the same manner, they notice when we laugh a great belly laugh and aren’t afraid to snort. When our faces are unadorned but for a smile and we still beam with confidence (in my case, it’s usually paired with a piece of broccoli in my teeth). When we don’t suck in. Our children’s self-worth is intimately tied to our own, for better or for worse.
Our Responsibility to Protect Their Beauty
Where do our girls get their first understanding of confidence? From their mamas (and papas). Our boys? Mamas and papas. We mamas have a responsibility to our children to protect their sense of self-worth and self-love. And it starts with ourselves and that gorgeous, sagging, droopy, milk-and-poop-encrusted postpartum booty.
We all think our babies are gorgeous even when they look like freakish aliens at birth (it’s the sleep deprivation that corrupts your thinking). Why can’t we see ourselves with the same love? Don’t call yourself fat. You’ve birthed a beautiful little monster (or a few little monsters) and your wrinkles are your laugh lines, your stretch marks are your battle scars and your gorgeous face is, well, gorgeous and has been since Day 1.
When we talk about teaching our kids self-love, you scoff, well my kid’s got that covered, Miss The-Universe-Revolves-Around-Me. But we’re not talking narcissism nor egotism here. We’re talking about accepting themselves for the looks and charm they were born with, not the ones they see on Ms. Kardashian (she does work hard for it, hot mama!). And that’s anything but narcissistic and egotistical.
Self-Love Isn’t Threatened
It’s a self-assurance that celebrates others because they don’t need to put them down to feel better about themselves. They feel no ill will towards others because their feeling of self-worth isn’t threatened. And they won’t jump into relationships just to feel accepted. Just imagine, now you don’t have to draw that unibrow on them while they’re sleeping.
In the end, it’s an age-old issue — it’s completely normal to want to look pretty — but let’s help our kids to love themselves in their own skin just as we learn to love ourselves in our own slightly-less-elastic skin.